The big question that’s necessary to ask when going into Honey Revenge is ‘what do they bring to the table?’ Indeed, it’s true of any pop-rock act of their ilk, in which a lot appears to have been taken out—be that musically, lyrically or, in many cases, both—without a lot in its place. At least that’s one area that Honey Revenge can stake an identity—it’s usually soloists responsible for such practices, whereas this is a duo doing it. That’s about it though, and you do begin to wonder from it what the endpoint is. When there’s no real individualistic payoff from any of these acts, and they’re producing more or less the same stuff, the bottleneck it produces is only going to get narrower and narrower.
It’s probably worth stating that Honey Revenge are far from the worst of them. They’ve got more dexterity in composition and the ability to do more than pair pop-punk’s most basic, anaemic ideals with a flat guitar and a trap beat. Still, they’re hardly bending over backwards here; Retrovision is far from pushing the envelope in any way. It is more listenable though, and can more effectively tap into some of the dumb fun that many aim for but fall wildly short of. It’s most apparent on songs like Favorite Song and Habitual that go the whole hog with Disney Channel pop and a neon finish, to come across at least a bit more developed. Hell, Devin Papadol has a vocal range that steers uncannily close to Demi Lovato at times, as if to nail down that comparison even harder.
On top of that, you could argue that some of the production isn’t quite as plastic as it could be. Donovan Lloyd’s guitars by no means shred at any point (even on the occasional solo that winds up feeling stilted on slapped on top of everything else rather than properly integrated), but at least Airhead or Are You Impressed? brush up on some firepower. There’s not the same colour or glow as the best moments though, which leaves Honey Revenge sounding as though they’re pulling in multiple different directions, even though some are far less fruitful than others. Then there’s the matter of Scapegoat being totally flaccid with its watery guitar and lack of any sufficient grounding, and how the drums across the entire album sound unavoidably canned and often too quiet, and the cracks begin to widen significantly. It’s a problem that arises like clockwork with every single on of these acts—if you want to make glossy pop-rock that sounds buffed and refined to a T, this pared-back, ‘DIY’ approach isn’t conducive with that at all.
And again, Honey Revenge are putting in the legwork to break further from the pack, but it doesn’t add up to truly great strides. They still feel locked in to the usual format with strikingly few individual qualities, and all that does is hurt them in the long run. To their absolute credit, they’re better at hooks within that; a good percentage of Retrovision has legitimate earworm potential, whether irritatingly so or not. And in pop-rock, there’s value to that and the relationship melodrama that’s required to be both present, and as broad and wide-reaching as possible. But then there are the moments of ‘introspection’ that fly way off the mark, just due to how relatively disconnected and low-stakes they can feel. Compared to dredging up uncomfortable emotional grievances, hearing Papadol sing about being oblivious on Airhead or unlucky on Murphy’s Law achieves so little of substance. They might as well be songs from those Disney Channel sitcoms; they’d be some of the more disposable songs written for Hannah Montana after she undergoes a particularly miniscule ‘problem’.
All of that being said, Retrovision is harmless. It’s still perpetuating some of the bandwagon jumping that’s turned this breed of pop-rock frustratingly ubiquitous, but it’s also far from the worst offender. If anything, Honey Revenge show some of the clearest signs of being able to work, with the least effort required to turn them into a fun, albeit basic act. Right now though, they’re hovering around a mid-zone that’ll be largely unforgiving to them without putting in that work. Even so, they are producing more likable moments already, maybe enough to slot into some kind of guilty pleasure niche before they evolve into something more uniformly solid. Hey, it’s something, right?
For fans of: Against The Current, Charlotte Sands, Magnolia Park
‘Retrovision’ by Honey Revenge is released on 23rd June on Thriller Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall